Living in the Trees
An artist's illustration of a Fab Tree Hab.
(Photo: Courtesy of Mitchell Joachim Ph.D.)
By Gail Hennessey
March 9, 2006Most people make treehouses using a pile of wood, a hammer, and some nails. Mitchell Joachim, an architect from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a different vision. He pictures a day when homes will be created from living trees.
Joachim's vision is based on an idea called pleaching, where tree branches are grown so that they naturally weave together. Since the growth patterns of trees are affected by wind and sunlight, it may be possible to manipulate the way a tree develops.
"There is no law that trees have to grow in any particular direction," Joachim said.
These Fab Tree Habs (or Fabricated Tree House Habitats) would use trees grown into shapes as housing. One of the advantages of these designs is that trees would not have to be cut down for lumber.
"A 100 percent treehouse would take years to create," Joachim said. Depending on the climate, a house could take anywhere from 5 to 30 years to grow. Fortunately, there's a way to speed up the process. Joachim suggests including ecological materials such as sod, grasses and living branches in the housing designs.
"This material would be able to move as the house grows," Joachim said.
So what happens when a home and the great outdoors are one and the same? A home would become an actual ecosystem, a community of plants, animals, and bacteria working together. The trees would also give off water vapor that would assist in cooling the homes. Solar panels and wind would help provide energy. Straw and clay could be used to insulate the structures. The tree homes might even have soil pockets, where plants could grow from the structure itself.
Work has already begun on Joachim's first designa house made from 50 percent recycled and 50 percent living things. It's called MatScape. Joachim is confident about the importance of his work, as he uses natural products without destroying nature.
"The environment and its study are very important. We need to respect nature, not take it for granted," he said.
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Fabricated Tree House Habitats
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